“Close Friendship With Jehovah Brings the Greatest Joy” was the Title of the Talk.

“It can’t be pleasing to Jehovah when we fixate on the negative,” was a theme of Anthony Morris’s talk Friday PM at the Regional Convention. It is a choice. An unconscious choice, maybe, and difficult to retrain—but it ought be the aim. The talk was entitled: Close Friendship With Jehovah Brings the Greatest Joy!

“All creation keeps on groaning,” he said, quoting Romans 8:22, but does that mean we should go into it full mode, too? Though the backdrop was unpleasant in Habakkuk’s time, he was set on rejoicing: “Although the fig tree may not blossom and there may be no fruit on the vines; although the olive crop may fail and the fields may produce no food; Although the flock may disappear from the pen, and there may be no cattle in the stalls; Yet, as for me, I will exult in Jehovah;I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.” he said. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Instead, practice being like Jesus in as many ways as possible, was the thrust of the talk. Practice giving and people will give to you—stingy people are never happy—stop judging and you will no means be judged. He didn’t say “Don’t start judging,” but “stop judging,” because they already were. It made me think of how the same speaker had handled the counsel of Jesus at Matthew 6:25: “Stop being anxious about your lives as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear,” and in this case reiterated it as though one might a child: “Just, stop it!” planting the idea that it was not uncontrollable. He didn’t say, “Don’t be anxious,” as though they weren’t already. He said “Stop being anxious,” conceding that they were.

Other points touched on in that talk: Don’t be envious of others, don’t begrudge someone’s material prosperity, because “jeolousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) Brother Morris has a way of murmuring through his own talks, appearing to reason it out as he goes, so that no one in a thousand years would accuse him of “speechmaking.”

And what to make of 1 Peter 4:15? “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or a wrongdoer or a busybody in other people’s matters.” Most people would rate murderer as super-serious, thief somewhat less so, and busybody so far down the scale as to hardly register, yet Peter mentioned them all in the same breath.

Don’t be a busybody, was his admonition, and being a busybody usually stems from being dissatisfied in one’s own life. “All the days of the aflicted ones are bad”—Morris quoted Proverbs 15:15, so try to dwell on the second half of the verse: “But the one with a cheerful heart has a continual feast,” and strive hard to squeeze out the “poor me” attitude, needlessly focusing on the afflictions. Agonizing over problems that are beyond our control cannot be pleasing to God, instead, try to focus on the more productive things—things that we can do.

It occurred to me afterwards that this year we are not really calling it a ‘Regional Convention.’ With the entire convention moved online due to Covid-19, the “region” it covers is pretty big. This is it is just the “2020 Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses” with the theme “Always Rejoice,” which can be streamed from the jw.org website.

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American’s Frontline Doctors and the Canceled JW Conventions—Tying Together Two Topics that You Wouldn’t Think Could Be Tied Together At All

When I heard the truncated clip, I was disappointed. It makes our guy look like a religious nut. “It’s a modern-day miracle,” he says, seemingly his lead-off line about the Jehovah’s Witnesses move to present their annual summer conventions online.

It’s not a modern-day miracle. It’s a technological accomplishment—an impressive one, to be sure—after all, it involves 500 languages, done on a crash basis, and broadcast worldwide—but it is not a “miracle.” It is not Jesus walking on water. Forgive me if I admit that when I first saw the clip with that as his lead statement, I supposed that the man was a nut—an over enthusiastic zealot who had drunk too much of his own Kool-Aid.

Yet, do I not come across the entire interview several days later to find it of a completely different flavor? It turns out that he is not that way at all—his remarks were framed to make him sound a fanatic by a media that feels it their duty to do so when dealing with matters of faith, something that is not their forte. He never meant the “miracle” remark literally. It’s a gush of enthusiasm such as anyone will have upon completing an overwhelming project. It is Neil Armstrong saying “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It is a throw-off line of hyperbole that comes 5 minutes into the interview—not the lead-off pronouncement of the truncated version.

This is so infuriating, but also so typical. Everyone will say something in the course of 15 minutes that can be misconstrued by those of another agenda—who simply can’t get their heads around a different point of view or may even be trying to deliberately sabotage it—to make the person look like a nut.

I almost wonder if something similar is now at work with the doctor from Cameroon recommending the hydroxychloroquine drug for Covid 19. There were ten doctors who banded together for a public statement before the steps of the Supreme Court, but because this one (Stella Immanuel) has made remarks in her past about demons, and the others presumably have not, she becomes the sole media focus to discredit the lot of them. The other nine are sent out to pasture.

I don’t often speak on my blog of demons, nor of the devil. Much of my target audience chokes at mention of God, so should I really send them into orbit with posts of the devil? Besides, humans are perfectly capable of doing evil things all on their own—a line of demarcation is hard to draw.

But neither do I think someone should be pilloried for bringing up the topic, much less when it has nothing to do with the story at hand. If anything, I am the expedient chicken, not her. Anyone who knows anything about Africa knows that belief in interaction with the spirits is well-nigh universal. She is to be expected not to pick up on it? Let the thinkers today get a handle on evil—even eradicate it a little bit—before they go ridiculing those who go off their materialistic script.

At root, though the doctor and our guy may be poles apart, the reason to trash them is the same, or at least it is a kissing cousin: they are both serious about things not endorsed by today’s prevailing atheistic materialistic view. In her case, there may be more to the story—something that is deliberately discredited. In our case, there certainly is. Us first:

Robert Hendricks, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses, speaks of how both the door-to-door ministry and the annual conventions have been suspended for the first time in history. The reasons are telling—that of “respect for life” and “love of neighbor.” Probably no one has more potential to spread the Covid 19 virus than Jehovah’s Witnesses in their old model. Not only do they routinely approach people, but their organization is the largest convention-holding one in the world—people converge sometimes by the tens of thousands for events held in stadiums. We just couldn’t see ourselves doing that this year, Hendricks said. With a lead-in time of only about a month, Witnesses put the entire event online to be streamed worldwide.

Their organization had gone into lockdown even before governments began to require it. “Just because you can drive 75 mph in some areas doesn’t mean that you should,” he stated. I told the CultExpert, he of the #freedomofmind hashtag, that “our” people were more responsible than his. Our people promptly and without fuss laid low—Covid 19 would be long gone by now if all were like them—but “his” people? You don’t think many of them will use their “freedom of mind” to tell the government what it can do with its rules?

Frankly, since media jumps all over churches that defy “science” by gathering, you would think they would praise to the heavens one that has set the example for being proactive. Yet, even when trying to compliment, they are hamstrung by a mindset that pronounces religion outmoded. Even as the New York Times covers the socially responsible move, (that of suspending the door-to-door ministry, not that of the conventions, which came later), they take for granted that it is done only for the sake of appearances. The decision “followed anguished discussions at Watchtower headquarters with leaders deciding March 20 that knocking on doors would leave the impression that members were disregarding the safety of those they hoped to convert,” as though the safety itself doesn’t mean a hill of beans to them. “Members are called on to share scriptures in person with nonmembers,” it wrote. Well, in fact they are called to do it, but it is by the scriptures themselves, and not the commands of HQ, as they like to frame it. “Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” writes the apostle at 1 Corinthians 9:16. Why do these materialistic ones not just say that the Bible itself is a “cult manual” and be done with it?

As to the 500 languages (1000 in print): the interview branched into this as the newsman asked some questions—it turns out that his mom is a Witness, and he thanked Hendricks for keeping her safe. The languages feat can be done because there is no profit motive, Hendricks said. That’s why no one else even comes close—Google, Apple, Amazon—no one. “There’s no end to what can be done if there is not a profit motive,” he said.

A cynical me says that he will probably be fired for going so far “off-script.” Naw—I don’t really think he will be, but if it is like the Cameroon doctor, he could be. She and her fellow doctors were promptly muzzled on social media for “spreading misinformation.” Will the News13 reporter be accused of “enabling” it as well?

Her turn: A major study of the Henry Ford Healthcare System in Detroit finds that the drug hydroxychloroquine is extremely effective. Why it is trashed as it is, I will never know. But since it is dirt cheap, and since the President has recommended it, it is hard not to think that either or both or these facts suggest possible reasons. 

By the time, the Henry Ford study was released, media had already reached the verdict that the drug was no good. This was based upon an earlier study published in Lancet that said hydroxychloroquine was ineffective, and in fact, even dangerous. However, Lancet later retracted their article. The reason they retracted it is that it was of a study that had not been submitted to peer review. The reason it had not been submitted to peer review is that it would have failed—it was a very sloppy study, sabotaged in numerous ways. The reason it was taken up by the media anyway, despite being so sloppy, is that it discredited Trump, who first said he liked the stuff and later that he even took it. Everything is politicized today—everyone gets into the fray of battling over who will rule the world.

Hydroxychloroquine has been around forever, a mainstay of treatment for several ills. It would have been run off the road long ago were it so dangerous. It is extremely cheap—another reason to attack it from an entirely different quarter—Remdesivir, a competing treatment, costs $1000 per dose! Does the cheaper drug have side effects? Just listen to the side effects of drugs relentlessly hawked on TV today—it is enough to scare your socks off. Cardiologist Dr. William O’Neill, medical director at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, director of the Detroit study said: “I've never seen science [so] politicized in 40 years of practice.”

 

 

 

 

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One Virtual Convention Replaces a Few Hundred Physical Ones

It started yesterday, just after the congregation meeting via zoom, just like Rocky said it would. It is divided up into 6 sessions, to be streamed from the website. The invitation is to view them directly after the abbreviated Watchtower Study, but they can be watched anytime.

I appreciated that the program went on with barely a hiccup, transferred to virtual. You just know that Zoom is giving people ideas. It works so well that even when the ‘coast is clear’ signal is given—assuming that it is someday—it will still play some role yet to be determined. At the very least, it will be the new option for people who can’t physically get to meetings, replacing the telephone tie-in. I could be wrong, but...let us be perfect candid...how likely is that?

Remember how Wayne Whitepebble used to carry on about the huge expense per family to attend? Even with economizing and choosing hotels on the recommended lodging list, it still was an annual expense of several hundred dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if virtual supplements actual to some extent in the future.

On the first day, I liked the many stadium shots of Regional Conventions during the music introduction, and I even prefer the song in languages I do not understand—it gives it more of an international flavor.

Not only did they all start yesterday—actually just one now—but the entire world membership and their guests saw it. Even foreign languages—Rocky says last year there were about 100–saw the same speakers, with translation dubbed in. Of course, speakers at the Regionals of previous years have never been clunkers, but this year it is Governing Body members and their direct helpers—even better.

Some wiseacre has put out a meme, and it has been going around for awhile, of how to “prepare” for the virtual convention. It involves replicating all the inconveniences, and even aggravations, of the actual physical conventions. It’s very funny, and the friends love it.

Suggestions include making sure that you choose an uncomfortable chair to sit in, and then ramming another chair directly in front of it so you have no foot room. Make sure that you have an unstable platform for taking notes so that your notes (or even device) is sure to fall on the floor a time or two—and so forth—there are about a dozen of them. I even added one directed to a group of youthful sisters online—prepare ahead of time photos of all the eligible brothers so that you may engage in “fellowshopping” between sessions. 

Some of the dozen of so items of the list are not aggravating at all—they are merely inconveniences that are part of the package—they even contribute to the annual excitement. Still, streaming offers a way around much of what frustrates, while saving each family a huge amount of dough. We will see how much of it survives. Already in Rochester, at the last moment last year, Regional Conventions were cancelled at the location we had been using for 30 years. A change in management dramatically hiked the rates, and also (I am told) insisted that all pass through metal detectors manned by the facilities‘ own staff in order to enter. Disney on Ice, along with some Monster Truck Rally, also cancelled.

Through the years, Witnesses have developed a huge attendant department that will be far more vigilant than anything building management can come up with and that can spot a suspicious character blocks away, but new management would yield on nothing. We are to believe that some sleepy door employee, paid as little as possible, who will shake down a old man for a nail clipper and let an occasional knife slip by—we all know how these things work—is going to be more effective than our own people—alert due to love of those they protect? I don’t think so.

Witnesses canceled, with about three weeks to go before start of convention. Things hung in the air, though all were assured, and nobody doubted, that alternative arrangements would be made. They were—all was transferred to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about four hours away for my wife and I. This year (prior to Covid-19) the entire 2020 Convention was going to be held at the Assembly Hall—an unheard of development (at least for me) that would entail splitting it up into a dozen different sections. 

It also doesn’t hurt that a small but very vociferous bevy of protesters is also thwarted by the switch—one reason the attendant department was so well organized was to prevent these ones getting in the face of visitors who aimed only to attend the convention in peace. The world has gone nuts in protesting things, and it can lead to the impression that many people don’t really have much to do with their lives. 

So changes were already underway In some places, and now with Covid-19, maybe some new ones may endure even once the all-clear signal is given. Unprecedented recent chaos made more timely the point raised by the keynote speaker, Kenneth Cook: “Is it possible to rejoice as the world crumbles around us?” It certainly is crumbling, and there isn’t a lot of hope among the general populace these days.

I had been told that Mark Sanderson’s talk Friday morning would be super-encouraging, on how one may “rejoice under persecution,” and it was. It even, as though for a personal zing to me, concluded with the same experience that I have used to conclude ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’—of a Russian brother sentenced to prison, who in slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion (which may or may not have been wise), invited the court to consider several years into the future, where there will be so many Witnesses in prison, and they will have so many Bible studies there—he had worked out the ratios—that when their sentences were up, they will not want to leave, and the Russian court would regret having ever sent them there in the first place. “He has a way with words, doesn’t he?” I concluded the book. “And math.”

(Like Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, I have used Covid-19 time to clear up blips, typos, and punctuation faux pas in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ that should have been cleared up before release, but I am only one person who had no idea how stubborn those things would be to get out, There were not nearly so many as the other book—the original was composed differently—but there were some, particularly at the end where I had very sloppily appended some updates post-publication. They’re all cleaned up, now.)

Then, too, there was that series of videos—the kind they always have—on ordinary scenarious and snares with which to cope. My wife has worked in machine shops. When that brother in the video dumped his cup of coffee and fried out the machine, she knew what that machine was. She knew how much it cost. She knew how much trouble he was in.

Did anyone else think that the janitor peering through the glass panel of the door—who saw it all—could have been like old Roger Chillingsworth had that brother tried to hide his ”sin?” Maybe he would have tormented the brother’s conscience until years later he would collapse on the floor, and co-workers would rip open his shirt to see “I did it” branded on his chest.

I sort of liked the line, “It even smells of coffee,” as they were thinking how feasible it might be to try to cover it up, before the brother decided (rather promptly) to fess up.

 

 

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Sam Herd and the Brother With the Rotten Attitude

“What did you learn that was new at the 2019 ‘Love Never Fails’ Regional Convention?”

It is a question from a sorehead. It is from a brother in good standing (or at least, not bad) though how that can be I will never know, for a more faultfinding person you will never find—and the faultfinding only escalates as he ventures up the leadership ‘hierarchy,’ since he holds them responsible for whatever he thinks did not work out in his own life. I mean, he doesn’t exactly have a fine attitude.

I know I cannot answer earnestly a question like this, for it will surely be thrown back in my face—it always is. In fact, this may be the type of fellow that I promised the elders I would not engage with again, but since I have no doubt that he truly is a brother—attending meetings and all—I answered him thus:

“I took a great many notes with the intent to write up a post or two that never materialized, crowded out by too many other things to do. It was in between days that I, for the first time ever, blocked several apostates at once as they had, for the first time ever, ganged up on me. They had pierced my up-to-then successful armor of always linking to a post with my replies, effectively answering their 50 words with my 1000.

But like the Borg, they adapted. Like charging a hill, caring not if they got mowed down, they started to came at me anyway. I would return to the hotel from a day at the convention and find a score or more of nastigrams from them, eager to call attention to some unflattering headline somewhere—all this with a wife who wanted to go out to supper or walk or just unwind, and who is not terribly enthused about my online activity in the first place. So I blasted them all away, and for reasons I no longer recall—I must have been watching Star Trek reruns, I drew heavily on that show for symbolism:

What did I learn at the 2019 ‘Love Never Fails’ Regional Convention? I learned that Brother Herd, who may not even know what political correctness is, will never reprove me for ‘fat-shaming.’ He was a keynote speaker, from the Governing Body, and his talks were streamed in from the larger Phoenix gathering he was attending.

Establishing the point that it is the heart that matters, Brother Herd posed the quandary of marrying the woman—an excellent catch—with a heart of pure gold, even though she “clocks in at 200 pounds.” Is this fellow a diplomat or what?

Everybody loves Brother Herd—maybe even more so than Brother Lett, whom some secretly fear may be too over the top. Herd has to be the most humble man on earth. How can he not be? Born to a father in his old age—a mule driver—one of 8 or 9 children, he said at the convention that for the longest time he thought that “a chicken only had a neck and a back because that’s all he ever got.”

Look, outsiders will never ever ever get it about how such a man can become one of the Governing Body, but it harkens back to something I once posted about how the GB is Plato’s dream come true: a monarchy type of governing in which the members are selected by merit, not by family line—and how that model assumes persons who do exist in the overall world—modest, non-materialistic, not power hungry—I mean, those persons do exist, but such are the values of this world that they can never ‘rise to the top.’ In Jehovah’s earthly organization, however, they can and do rise to the top—and part of their very qualifications is that they do not regard themselves as ‘rising to the top’ but only displaying a willingness to serve.

At any rate, I got a lot of mileage out of him when some opposer posted footage of him shaking hands with well-wishers at the airport and tried to spin it that JWs make him an object of worship and that he eats it all up. Anyone who knows the slightest thing about the man knows that he practically scowls at the attention, but what can he do? There they are. They love him. He loves them, so he shakes everyone’s hand. “Imagine: Who would be so nasty and petty to begrudge an old man acknowledging the well-wishing of friends?” I tweeted. It was one of my most liked tweets of all time.

I even have Sam down twice in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’ There is ‘Chapter 2 - Sam Herd’ and ‘Chapter 18 - Sam Herd.’ He had given some talk so humble, and yet so profound, that I used it to bookend my entire book—a book which, incidentally, I am using Covid time to refine a few rough edges out of it, so that anyone who has downloaded it might download it again and find it smoother.

He is not even a good speaker, really—Sam Herd isn’t—but he is such a captivating story-teller that it doesn’t matter. His stories are so down-to-earth, so human, so involved in the day-to-day of life—very much like Jesus’ illustrations—so connected with all that is ‘real’ about life, that he doesn’t have to spin erudite talks; his stories are such that everyone grasps the moral that he nowhere explicitly states.

“One thing is clear about jw.org,” a local brother said. “They don’t use paid actors.” No. You will never find people as unvarnished and real as are members of the Governing Body. You do not highlight people’s strengths. You highlight their weaknesses, though not in a fault-finding way, because in those weaknesses can be found God’s strength. If brilliant people accomplish brilliant things—well, it is easy to see why. But if decidedly non-brilliant people accomplish those things, it is not so easy to see why, and the credit goes to God. Three times the apostle Paul pleaded with God to remove a weakness. ‘Nothing doing,’ God replied. ‘I look better when you are a clod.’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

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At the Wilkes-Barre “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention

We took supper at a Red Robin after the first day of the “Love Never Fails” Regional Convention in Wilkes-Barre. At the table just behind me, a child—about 5 years of age (and not one of ours)—began raising a horrible ruckus, screaming at the top of his lungs. His mother took him out, but when she returned he started up anew. I turned around and asked the parents if everything was okay.

I admit that I was looking for signs of endangerment. Maybe one “parent” or the other would look shifty. Maybe the child would act as though they were not his parents. It is a sign of the times that I should do this, but I saw nothing alarming.

There was a time not too long ago when most parents would respond in a certain way to such a tantrum, but that way is likely to land them in jail today. Jehovah’s Witnesses work with many refugee groups. Almost always, they encounter ones whose flight has turned their lives upside-down, and one of the most bewildering things they confront is that child-rearing customs that were absolutely routine and unremarkable back home are taboo in their new home. Do not misunderstand. I make no argument for its return. That said, it is by no means clear that today’s children are better adjusted for its disappearance.

My turning around put the parents even more on notice that they were disrupting the entire restaurant. They could hardly have not known it before, but here was a fresh reminder. The father became heated, threatening no TV for a week and the like. Upon leaving, I said to him: “Don’t worry about it. Whatever you do, stay calm. I’ve been there. They’re kids. It happens.”

Taking in the convention program over three days, I began to wish that silly reporter from the Phoenix New Times would have accepted the offer from the attendants (whom she seemed to regard as wardens) to be seated. With her anti-JW story already written, she could hardly run it during the day of their convention without at least having briefly been there, and it is plain she comes with that rationale.  She looks around hastily, notices that people are paying attention, and writes that “attendees listened rapturously.”

Of course, she is not silly. What she latches onto for her story is certainly not nothing. She will forgive my grumbling on the basis that she is young enough to be my daughter. For all I know, she is the daughter of some friend of mine. Reporters are not silly, or if they are, they are no more so than anyone else. They are typically concerned with injustice. They sometimes put their safety on the line in confronting it. Nobody is silly who does this. They have faith that shining the bright light of journalism on something will cause the cockroaches to disappear. Usually, however, they just go somewhere else—and failure to recognize that circumstance is what triggers the charge of silliness.

Though her focus is certainly not nothing, neither is it everything. She entirely misses the big picture. She would have benefitted from the program that she cited as “three days of music-video presentations, prayers, songs, addresses, symposiums, and dramatic readings from the Bible” on the theme of “Love Never Fails.” The public address of that convention (the program is identical at all locations—only the speaker differs, and not even that for every talk, since portions of that Phoenix “international” convention, so-named for the foreign delegates attending, were streamed into other locations, such as Wilkes-Barre) opened with a truth as self-evident as are the truths Thomas Jefferson addressed in the Declaration of Independence.

In this case, it is that all instances of injustice occur and are cultivated due to a lack of love. That being so, and obvious, the question becomes: “Just who will teach love?” Will it be the university? That is not its job. It focuses on training the intellect, with the apparent assumption that the moral qualities such as love will take care of themselves. As even the sloppiest purview of world headlines reveals, they do not. So who will teach it? Will it be agencies that are guided in training from the university that does not teach it? Is the quality so innate that it not need be taught? Again, a review of news headlines reveals the fallacy of such a notion. So who?

Training that takes its cue from humankind’s Creator has traditionally played that role. “God is love,” states 1 John 4:8. Such training appears under attack from the Phoenix reporter, though she has nothing to replace it with. In the case of Bible training, Witnesses will say that it is a “treasure,” but it is a “treasure” carried in “earthen vessels”—that is, us, as flawed humans—just as Paul states at 2 Corinthians 4:7. Humans are capable of error, poor judgment, and even villainy. But that doesn’t mean that the training from God is no good, and the reporter should have sat through it.

When she cites the Pew report that reveals Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest rate of retention of all faiths, why does she not also cite what appears on the same page? “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America,” it says. Nobody is concerned about racial prejudice more than reporters, and here Pew makes a statement to indicate that the Witnesses have solved it to a remarkable degree. All she had to do was look around and see for herself the harmonious diversity that she will not soon see again. But she does not notice it. She is caught up in an agenda pushed by the faith’s opponents. She is interested in the child sexual abuse angle—an angle that is seemingly shared by every group of persons on the planet. Pedophiles are a pernicious lot that nobody has succeeded in vanquishing, and the Boy Scouts of America, who taught generations of boys responsibility, self included, are at risk of going under because of it.

In New York State, where I have lived and still keep up, a new law eliminates the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Law firms have flooded the media in search of plaintiffs. Hundreds of new lawsuits are being filed, and the challenge may soon be to find somebody NOT being sued, as lawyers preside over a massive transfer of wealth that amounts to a tax on everyone else. Businesses raise prices. Governments raise taxes. Insurance rates of all sort skyrocket at a time when overall inflation is quite low.

In fact, had I detected abuse at the Red Robin restaurant, and had I reported it, and had the police and child protective authorities arrived and confirmed that it was indeed abuse, and had they removed the child on that account, I still would not have been sure that I had done the right thing. Among those squarely in the crosshairs of child sexual abuse lawsuits are many agencies dedicated to placing them in “protected” settings, but who have put them into settings no better and sometimes worse than where they were before. The world is a shell game of persons wanting to “do something” who, though well-intentioned, are likely to simply shift the evil from one place to another.

In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses, during their 2017 Regional Conventions, considered detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse has been known to occur—if there are sleepovers, if there are unsupervised trips to the restroom, if there are tickling sessions, if someone is showing unusual interest in your child, for example—so that parents, who are obviously the first line of defense, can be vigilant. Nobody, but nobody, gathers their entire worldwide membership for such training with the aim of protecting children from harm.

It is certainly not wrong for the reporter to report on the Witness connection with child sexual abuse. Much as they would love to say that they have vanquished the crime, such is plainly not the case. But neither has it been the case for anyone else. In some ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses have created a unique legal vulnerability for themselves, for unlike most faiths that were content to preach to the flock weekly and thereafter take no interest in whether religious training was actually applied or not, Witnesses attempt to “police their own,” and thus did become aware of sordid things.

Yet she was right there at the three day convention focusing on all aspects and applications of love. (And an international convention of 40,000 must make a greater impression than a Wilkes-Barre convention of 3500) Had she paid attention, she would have heard from the Cherokee man who grew up embittered because the white man had stolen the lands of his people. He was embittered again when he was required to fight their war for them (Vietnam). When his wife began studying with two Witness women, he was sullen and unwelcoming—the last thing he wanted was the religion of the white man. When she reached the point of wanting to be baptized, he declared that he would not come. When asked who would watch his baby during the baptism, he declared that maybe he had better come on that account. There, he observed the atmosphere for four days (conventions used to be longer) and his already softened attitude toward the Witnesses softened further. The reporter could have taken in that atmosphere, too, had she not had a deadline to meet.

(Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a “come down and be saved” faith. The process of learning and trying Bible teachings on for size seldom (in this area) lasts less than a year. Throughout that time, persons are grounded in their own familiar routine and environment. College is more “manipulative” than is anything having to do with the Witnesses, for there young people are typically cut off almost 24/7 from all that once stabilized them, be it family, friends, and general environment—a classic tool of those who brainwash)

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Jehovah’s Witnesses Slammed in Phoenix

If you fill to near capacity a 40,000+ seat stadium for a volunteer event, put on by volunteers, surely those of the local media will be impressed. Not the Phoenix New Times reporter! who is “weirded-out” by aspects of the gathering that most would find commendable, and barely mentions the event anyway, as she immerses herself in the narrative of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ harshest detractors. Plainly, the packed stadium photos and the gist of the article do not match.

I could be wrong, but I think most will recognize this piece as a hit job, and it might even motivate some to go there to investigate, where they will see that the tone of it is nonsense. “Three days of music-video presentations, prayers, songs, addresses, symposiums, and dramatic readings from the Bible,” according the event program, will intrigue some as a refreshing rarity.

Are they so “cultish” as the reporter charges? Stadium and hospitality personnel often cannot praise JWs enough, rarely encountering such orderly and pleasant people. A reporter in Miami wishes that the Marlins could fill their own stadium to capacity as have Jehovah’s Witnesses. A shock jock in Rochester a few years back waxed ecstatic over Witnesses when he found that they categorically reject violence. “These are my people!” he gushed on-air. Another stadium is said to accept as payment-in-full the thorough annual scouring that the Witnesses give the facility. Others reporters, such as this millennial in New Orleans, wrote it up that, while they certainly are different in beliefs, still they are just ordinary folk come together for religious instruction.

Not everyone will be as shocked and disdainful as the Phoenix reporter that there are still some people who dress up. Not everyone will gasp in disapproval at counsel that we ought watch who we hang out with. If the New Times reporter felt “conspicuous in pants,” well—that’s hardly the fault of the attendees. She could have chosen to be not conspicuous had she been concerned about it. When I invite people to conventions, I observe: “You are perfectly welcome to come just as you are. But if you don’t have one of these [I flip my tie], everyone will assume you are a visitor, and they may just come to preach to you.” Householders smile at the heads-up.

The blatant ill will and bias of the New Times article is evident even in trivial matters, such as the reporter’s disdain that “attendees listened rapturously,” as though they should be expected to nod off. In fact, some of them do after lunch on long afternoons, and it was worse before the days of efficient air conditioning. Don’t attendees of concerts or rallies also listen rapturously? Why come if you do not?

Not all will smirk at the “lowest rate of retention on all religions” that Witnesses suffer. Many will realize that it is more than offset by the high rate of participation from those that stick. After all, there are many faiths where members might not actually leave, but how would you know if they did? The high participation rate actually accounts for the lower retention rate, for inevitably some will tire of it and opt for something less strenuous. Similarly, not everyone will be shocked that should you do a 180 and ardently attack what you once embraced, relations with the family may suffer. Of course they will. It is not brands of automobiles that we speak of.

But the bulk of the article deals disapprovingly with how Witnesses have grappled with the same child sexual abuse plague that has shown itself pandemic throughout society—be it in segments religious or irreligious. The recent Epstein “suicide” only underscores that the evil reaches into the highest echelons of society, some members of whom appear desperate to cover their tracks. If, in the opinion of the ARC, “children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation,” frequent news reports make clear that they are not “adequately protected” anywhere. Even the Boy Scouts of America, that iconic institution that has taught generations of boys responsibility, did not succeed in purging all pedophiles from its midst, and is at risk of going under for it.

Arguably, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have attempted to police their own, they have faltered in coordinating such internal “policing” with the actual police. Still, this must be countered by the consideration that few faiths make any attempt at all to look into wrongdoing within the ranks. When a member is nabbed for child sexual abuse, it is as much of a surprise to the minister as anyone else. Moreover, with some groups, the minister is the perpetrator—not just the one who investigates the sin.

Jehovah’s Witnesses live, work, and school in the general community. They are politically neutral, and as such, are pacifist. The same Pew source that tells of their “low retention rate” also says of them: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in America.” Just how sinister can they be? In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses were declared “extremist” and banned in 2017 for entirely separate reasons, the topic of child abuse having never once arisen—and their woes are exacerbated by the same critics attempting to take them down in the West with diatribes that are embraced by the New Times.

One almost senses that the reporter’s discomfort at being offered help three separate times by three separate attendants to find a seat might stem from an uncomfortable sense that they have somehow discerned her intention to accept their hospitality and then lambaste them on the media. Charges against Jehovah’s Witnesses that she has showcased here—which are certainly not nothing—are dealt with in the free ebook TrueTom vs the Apostates! which includes 10+ chapters on the core charge of child abuse.

As society increasingly becomes disillusioned with God, it is inevitable that participatory religion will be regarded as cultish. What Jehovah’s Witnesses think of articles such as in the New Times is immaterial. Historically, they rise to fight the battles laid before them. They are used to presenting their faith through its most appealing lens. Let them become used, if need be, to presenting it through its least appealing lens, for both are to be expected of imperfect persons attempting to apply Bible standards in a world that increasingly shrugs them off.

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Tight Pants, Wide Ties, Volkswagen Buses, and Holding the Watchtower

When Anthony Morris, at the 2016 Regional in Atlanta, spoke of coming down south, and his sons had asked him ‘What is a redneck?’ he replied that they “would know them when they saw them.”

He was having fun with his opening remarks. Everyone....well, almost everyone....took it in that spirit. In case there was someone who did not, in a subsequent talk he walked it back, referring to the gentle “folk wisdom” of the south.

He speaks off the cuff sometimes. Rise, for he too is human. He probably regrets that remark about the tight pants, because various soreheads have made it their year text ever since. 

It is very difficult counseling a huge and diverse group of people One will say: “Thanks for the new RULE!!” and his companion will say: “Huh? Did you say something?” I think he and those of his group just don’t want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, whose sons-in-law thought he was joking.

Even at the Watchtower study last Sunday, the conductor gave an aside about the tight pants, observing that they must have to be put on when wet, so as to allow the fabric to stretch over the feet. Strictly speaking, (even loosely speaking) it is not necessary. But an 80-year old can be forgiven for a few seconds (it was no more than that, and he is universally regarded as a man of integrity and good judgment) of scratching his head and expressing bewilderment at the world that is today.

This is the same Watchtower conductor whose lifelong secular work was that of a Porsche dealer mechanic, and who quit in disgust when Porsche began manufacturing SUVs, as though an elite art museum commenced displaying that painting of the dogs playing poker. It’s not true, he tells me. He was about to retire anyway, but he does nothing to counter the crotchety-sounding meme that others have spread around. 

This is the same Watchtower Study, on how the wisdom of Jehovah is superior to the wisdom of this world, in which I thought the artwork was wrong. The VW bus is one from the 70’s, whereas it should have been one with a funky grill that was from the 60’s. The impeccably dressed brother with the hat is from the 50s—hadn’t dress hats pretty well faded out by the mid-60s? And don’t get me going about the “hippy” conversing with him, who no doubt took off his wig and clothes thereafter and resumed his place analyzing a computer spreadsheet at Bethel.

And while I am on the topic of that Watchtower:

My daughter is in town for a few weeks. At the study observation of how some say God-given sexual desire argues for promiscuity, she said: “Well, that’s stupid! God made me to have to pee, too. Does that mean I should pee my pants?”

“That’s my daughter!” I told the family gathering, as she related her remark. Frankly, I wish I had thought of it.

But back to the tight pants. They were tight in the early 60s, too, and I can remember battles with my [non-Witness] Dad because I wanted to wear them and he had a fit over it, though I gradually won out. Even the “spray-on” descriptions are from the past. I wore clamdiggers, too, cool pants that came in pastel colors, had a stripe down the side, and ended mid-shin. I wore them when visiting my uncle who lived way way out in the sticks, and he said: “What are you doing wearing peddle-pushers? Those are girls’ pants!!” They weren’t peddlepushers, you hillbilly. They were cool clamdiggers.

It’s not just pants. Ties widened in the late 60’s as well, regaining the status they previously had given up. I remember Brother Park giving a talk about how the Bethel brothers were very concerned for Brother Knorr, who showed up for meals day after day with very wide ties at a time when the styles were changing—I think he said they ultimately became as thin as a pencil. Those brothers were so worried about him, because he was “not in style.”

“BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED?!” he gasped. Ties began to reverse and became wider and wider—and now Brother Knorr is “in style!”

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Reporter at 2 O'Clock. Roger That.

A 30-ish, I would guess, reporter attended one of this year's regional conventions, this one in New Orleans, and wrote some reasonably nice things about it. He didn’t fall upon his face and do a Zechariah 8:23 – ‘We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people’ – but considering his non-religious reporter background, I’ll take what he did write and thank him for it. You don't have to quibble over every little thing.

Since I have time on my hands, and no, I was not notified by an attendant (guard), let me see if I can respond to a few things he raised. His words are in italics. Mine in regular font.

The Jehovah's Witnesses' Annual Convention Was So Organized It Was Creepy. 

They are extremely organized. It might strike one as creepy who is not used to it.

Aside from the occasional door-to-door visits and that one time, which I still feel guilty about, when my brother drenched some evangelists with water balloons from our second-story bedroom window, I had never really met a Jehovah's Witness.

It took me two trips to the dry cleaners to get those water marks out of my suit.

 Also, I knew Prince was a member, and any religious group that could claim Prince as one of their own was either extremely terrifying or weirdly edgy and almost cool.

The ebook Tom Irregardless and Me contains the most complete, and perhaps only, written compilation of Prince’s JW life. It is in the free download section.

…they even took care of cleaning, despite the Superdome's retainer on dozens of janitors.

It may be the only event for which they get time off. The Witnesses usually show up a day beforehand for a massive scrub-down.

One Superdome employee said to me, "These guys are guarding the elevators like Obama is here."

As far as I know, he did not come. He would have been invited, but may have been hard to reach.

Plus, their floral-printed dresses and charcoal suits made most guests look like they were dressed for a wake.

If one is not used to seeing folks dressed up, and it is a rarety today, the sight could easily give that impression.

As a further sign of their top-down control of every aspect of the convention, or maybe just a tight budget, none of the concession booths were open.

It is like that in every convention and has always been. People brown-bag it. However, go back far enough to the 50’s or so and there were makeshift kitchens set up & taken down to serve a full meal to every attendee. Food arrangements have progressively streamlined since then.

It's a bit unsettling to realize you're one of the only people in a room of nearly 40,000 who think you're not destined for heaven, and not even destined for the earthly paradise that the remaining Jehovah's Witnesses will inherit after all the other degenerate heathens like me are abruptly taken out by the apocalypse. Their beliefs are their beliefs after all, but I don't often contemplate the afterlife in the presence of a group whose faith is so relentless. It's convert or burn, and that's heavy s**t, man.  [**’s mine]

We would not phrase matters this way. We just try to bring the gospel to as many as we can, and after that things are out of our hands. As the expression goes: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” (though we would not phrase matters that way, either)

There was a big, climactic event on the bill that sounded like it was supposed to be a live drama depicting something from the Book of Something.

Jonah. it was from the Book of Jonah. Actually, it was the entire book, which is overall quite short.

…everyone was wearing way too much makeup. It was like a B movie made by the Bible Channel.

I actually thought the movie was pretty good, overall. They have come a long ways in a short time, and once were downright cheesy. Great attention is paid that all props are historically accurate. It may be that you just miss the Hollywood pizzazz in which Moses pops Pharaoh in the nose and gets the girl. Admittedly, they are not paid actors. They, too, are volunteers.

a bunch of men walked around holding "Quiet Please" signs that had already been made.

This happens before all sessions, as it takes participants a while to break off visiting with friends they may not have seen for a long time.

But while I still don't understand the Jehovah's Witness faith or its people, and while I may still think of them as cult-addled nuts, they're still just people.

You know, I’ll take this. I appreciate it. And I really do like the article for its reminder of the first impression we make on many today.

But they also like peanut butter sandwiches. 

I hate to think of the garbage I might be eating were it not for my wife, who attends to such things far better than I do.

...and they especially like organizing conventions.

The exact program is reproduced hundreds of times during the year around the world, each with the same degree of organization, so as to serve every member. Ours was in Rochester, and here is a post on a previous one.

 

 

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These Are My People

Time was when those district conventions geared up very slowly.

Sit down.....listen up....take notes....get enough sleep....keep track of your kids....if you were already planning to behave you could just as well skip that first talk, and if you weren't - well, one talk was not going to change things much. Then there might follow an talk-by-talk preview of the program, stretching out 20 minutes or so. Then a few old timers would surface on stage, interviewed for historical flavor. Maybe some pioneers next, and then some others whom life had kicked in the teeth, but who had withstood trial, and credited faith for their win.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed hearing from all these folks. The point is, though, that the program kept trotting out appetizer after appetizer, and the main course took a long time to appear.

No more. This year, the first talk hits the ground running. Why Must We "Keep on the Watch," to cite Jesus' counsel. You wouldn't think people would be so spiritually lethargic in a time of cataclysmic events, the type we routinely see on the news. But they are. Events that once would have set folks back on their heels for weeks, they now just shrug off as one of those things and carry on. Just like Jesus' words indicate at Matt 24:38-39:

For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.

Thus, Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. From this counsel the 2009 convention draws its theme: Keep on the Watch.   (vs 42)

 

Okay, so those laid-back folks might go to Barnes & Noble and pick up a timely paperback. And some others might throw in the towel completely to worship the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity. But serious searching they don't do. And the message comes right to their house, for crying out loud. But talk about the end of this system, and people take it as a big joke, just like Peter wrote:

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”   2 Pet 3:3-4  

sigh

I liked the Sunday morning program, as well - starting with a nine part symposium discussing foretold events from the great tribulation to the end of the 1000 year reign, presented compact and fast-moving. You'd swear, as a building employee did at a prior Raleigh convention (according to visiting Tom Oxgoad) that the convention speakers were well-paid professional speakers, but no; they're all local brothers - unpaid volunteers, as is true with everything else Jehovah's Witnesses do.

That moron in the devil suit was back also, as well as the usual gang of protesters, about a half dozen or so outside the building, though you'd think they were far more, judging by the noise they made. "Why don't you just pop them one?" one of the cops asked an attendant, so said the concluding speaker. Well....we've got a reputation to uphold. But I can sympathize with the cops, who have to double, if not triple their numbers on account of these guys. All morning long they have to listen to these characters screaming about hellfire, the "devil" pretending to wave his disciples into the auditorium. Sheesh! Say what you will about Jehovah's Witnesses....perhaps you're not crazy about their visits....but they will never show up at your door dressed in a devil suit.

Really, of all the doctrines from the fundamentalists, "hellfire" is the easiest to pull apart. With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

Then there was Brother Wease. Now, Brother Wease is not a brother in the same sense as Brother Sheepandgoats, Brother Wheatandweeds, or Brother Pearlsandswine. It's a handle. Brother Wease is a local shock jock, modeled after Howard Stern. Unlike Howard, he's not syndicated, so he identifies with the local Rochester community, supports a lot of local causes, and indeed, is quite popular. First day of the convention he called the news department. Can they send someone he can interview on air? They did. Turns out that Wease had been visited by our people a few weeks ago, and he was impressed. His warning that he was the antichrist with no use for religion had not sent them scampering, as he had anticipated. Instead, they stayed, he warmed to them, and found some things he liked. He said nice things about that visit on air, right here. Even some of his on-air chums, who are essentially there to 'bust your chops,' came around - sort of. "These are my people," Wease enthused; he liked the part about Witnesses not going to war. Friday's interview isn't online yet. Go here, and scroll down. It will probably show up eventually

It's convention time. The same program is held worldwide in scores of locations, usually multiples times at each to serve folk from different areas. In the northern hemisphere it runs during 3-day windows in June-September. Then it goes into the southern hemisphere to pick up their summer.

***********************

Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

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The Devil Attends a Convention!

We were in a top secret meeting reviewing brainwashing techniques when in burst Tom Pearlsenswine, so excited. He'd just come across a blog entry: Church Wars! A group of Jehovah's Witnesses and a group of church evangelizers crossed swords on a public street - almost a brawl! giving residents great (and free) entertainment. It ended when the street spokesman yelled at both the JW leader and the church leader, but she yelled at the JW leader less! What a great experience! Pearlsenswine ventured. He wanted to post a comment. It would be a great witness for the Lord, he said. Of course, we all dropped everything to go online.

"Pearlsenswine, you idiot!" we remonstrated gently. "This is not a serious post. This guy is being creative. He's having fun. You go on there with your super-sober piety, and you'll make us all a laughingstock." But there's no reasoning with Pearlsenswine when he gets something into his head. His own website says it all: "He puts the dog into dogmatic!"

So off he goes commenting and, predictably, the writer returns with ".....um, I just made this up. 90% of it, anyway." What a bullet-headed lout our boy is!

But I got to chatting with this fellow on the real event that inspired his post, and it turns out that he's not particularly down on Jehovah's Witnesses. They are harmless and inoffensive enough, he opines. But the other group he can't stand.  "I like to be persuaded . . . not told by some righteous person that I am a lowlife that will burn in hell. That lot deserve to be parodied, especially the guy outside the tube (this fellow's British, just like Queen Elizabeth) station who is basically just a nasty bastard," he said. The group in his story paraded in around in public with a bloodied "Jesus" on a cross who twitched! Twitched! That's not a little sick? he suggests. (notwithstanding Mel Gibson's movie, which is required viewing for this bunch) "What a great piece of exaggeration!" I congratulated him. But no, he assured me, that part really happened. He had pictures.

This strikes a chord with me because we just finished up our district convention, this year themed Follow the Christ. Now, these firebrand groups can't stand JWs, mainly because we don't line up with their favorite doctrines: trinity and hellfire. So they always picket our conventions. One guy is dressed up in a "devil" suit, gesticulating. What on earth is he doing? He's waving his disciples into the auditorium!

Look, I realize that not everyone welcomes JW visits. Furthermore, I admit we are not always "smooth." It depends on the person, their experience & comfort level, the circumstances, and so forth. But I do pledge that we will never come to anyone's door in a devil suit.

The Devil's been showing up for several years now. Is it my imagination or was he 10 feet tall the first year (probably due to drywall stilts) whereas now he's just regular height? If it turns out he was never on stilts, his head will grow so big it will topple him off the stilts he was never on. It means he loomed larger than life in my imagination! It means he's getting under my skin!

Well, yeah, maybe a little. These guys are pretty obnoxious. Our people must form a human "corridor" so that conventioneers  can enter the building unmolested. It's not as if we couldn't find a better use for our time. Even the cops are fed up with them and threaten them with arrest when they try to physically obstruct entrance. After all, being assigned district convention duty is, for a cop, an easy gig. They simply direct traffic. Nothing more. Our people don't even stray outside the crosswalk! They're on their best behavior, imagining this gives "a good witness." The policeman stands there with a donut and exchanges pleasantries with our people as we cross this or that street.  What could be easier? But now they have to put up with these religious bigmouths who, this year, for the first time (I think) in Rochester, came with sound equipment, which they used to blast everyone's eardrums, reminding them about hellfire.

All this is sort of an annual joke. Those entering the auditorium rarely so much as look at these people. The general thought is that this will only encourage them, and so that's the word-of-mouth policy that we usually follow. Of course, following policy doesn't cut it with this bunch, who do anything they damn well like anytime they like. If our people decline to speak to them, they interpret it as "brainwashing," as if every conventioneer would just love to engage them in stimulating conversation, but the mean Watchtower won't let them.

 

....................................

[UPDATE: 2009 Keep on the Watch Convention]

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